I’ve got a one way ticket to paradise…

…or, in our case, should’ve had a one way ticket! As I’d mentioned in my overwintering options on the cheap post, I’d researched just about everything this trip except Delta airline overstay exemption policies. Here goes:

I’m a planner and a prepper. My worst nightmare is showing up at the airport and finding out that something has gone awry and i won’t make it on that flight. So, when it came to our trip from Atlanta to Guatemala city with Delta Airlines, I’d booked with Delta directly, knowing that it makes things easier to amend a reservation if need be at a later date. I’d called the reservations desk within 24 hrs to register my pet for in-cabin flight and make sure both flights accommodates enough underseat space for the pet carrier (which it did not, so I was re-booked on an earlier flight out of Guatemala City on a larger airplane, free of charge).

At no point was it mentioned to me that there might be a problem with the fact that my return ticket was more than 90 days apart. When the time came to do the online check-in, my mom had no trouble obtaining a print-at home boarding pass, but I was refused, as I had a “special conditions” on my ticket- meaning I had to first check with a Delta representative regarding my pet, pay the 200$ one-way (gasp!) fee, then I’d be allowed to obtain a boarding pass. Well, lo and behold, the cat got her “ticket”, my mom had hers, but next thing I know the representative is asking me whether I had a visa to fly to Guatemala. Stunned, I said “of course not, as a Canadian I am allowed a 90-day stay with another 90-day extension, as long as I apply at the immigration before the original 90-day is due”. You see, I did my howework, read through a myriad of embassy webpages (not the most user-friendly!) in both English and Spanish, knew where I had to go to get the renewal and how I was going to do that… with one exception: I did not know that Delta will interfere with my plans!

I started testing her immigration knowledge: well, what happens if a person has plans to travel by bus to Mexico afterwards? The human machine maintained the same response: “I am sorry, we cannot let you on this flight unless you have a return ticket dated within 90 days of your arrival”. Suddenly, I felt all those meticulous plans i’d worked so hard to arrange come crashing down. Defeated, I let myself be talked into switching the flight to only 60-day return as this was the only one “available at my paid fare”-which I really doubted was truly the case. At this rate, I wouldn’t be attending any retreats and this whole charade of overwintering overseas is a joke…

… Lured by the promise of being able to get my original flight back if I’d called within 24 hrs once I landed in Guatemala, I felt there might be hope after all. The next morning, with 3 hours left to go, I called Delta “customer specialist” directly, who’d only sent me in loops until I got to someone who would be able to oversee the whole situation. Of course, the answer remained the same: unless I was able to produce an extension of Visa right this minute, physically make my way back to the airport in order to show any Delta representative that this was truly the case, they refuse to have my return flight extend past 90 days. An hour and many pleads later, I did manage to squeeze another free itinerary change to February 20th, which would give me 89 days in Guatemala and at least an opportunity to attend one retreat. Not the best option, but at least it was free.

What is interesting about this whole ordeal is that a) Delta did not raise any issue with my mom’s ticket, who had the exact same itinerary- the only reason I went “on the radar” was due to having to register my pet for in-cabin flight and b) Spirit Airlines recently refused my friend a one-way ticket into Guatemala, forcing her to buy a non-refundable return ticket at the airport, although she did show proof of onward travel to Nicaragua via onland transportation, while an Australian was let in with a one-way ticket. It is unfortunate when airline regulations can override those of the country you are flying into.

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2 thoughts on “I’ve got a one way ticket to paradise…

  1. I’ve had a similar thing when flying from Hamburg (Germany) to Belgrade (Serbia)… And I didn’t even want to bring a pet! Also, I had “cross-booked” a flight in between so I in fact didn’t have a stay longer than 90 days without leaving the country in the meanwhile. They, however, didn’t have it in their system so I needed to print out the reservation and show it to them. Of course, I missed my flight. Luckily, there was another one leaving 4 hours later which I was (by a friendly lady risking her job) allowed to take for free.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! Yes, I have since learned to pre-print any reservation (you can do so for free online on some websites, just make sure it won’t be with the same airline, so essentially in can be any flight and you don’t have to actually buy a ticket) to show whoever is overly “keen at their job” that I do indeed have a “way out” before my stay is maxed out. The Delta people were just beyond unreasonable though.

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